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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Here's a quick quote, courtesy of a BEAT poster, that exemplifies one form of the sexual-superiority rhetoric to which I alluded here. I have read SUPERGODS but have not yet checked the quote for context.

Grant Morrison wrote in “Supergods” that he’s met many bright women who read the better superhero comics as part of their regular pop culture diet. But he admitted that the people who are OBSESSED with superheroes, and who amass huge collections of superhero comic books, tend to be male.

In my response, I pointed out that there was no objective means by which one could prove any group of comics, superhero or otherwise, to be universally "better."  The only objective fact is that if many people like a thing, that liking is objective purely in an *intersubjective* sense, as an agreement of tastes between discrete individuals.  Putting that aside, the more important aspect of the Grant Morrison observation is that it throws some light on the different ways men and women respond to the same fictional entertainments.  I said:

 My takeaway from this admitted generalization is not necessarily that women have better taste than men (not that such a thing can be definitively proven or disproven anyway), but that the former are less concerned with getting “the Big Picture.” Guys will tolerate a lot of crappy MARVEL TEAM-UPS just to keep track of how many times Spidey fought the Sandman in all his appearances. In comparison with this perhaps-obsessive habit, women might fairly be viewed as “more discriminating.”

Though neither Morrison nor the BEAT poster is complaining about "fanboys" after the fashion of the bloody comic book elitists, there's no shortage of such complaints on various forums.  One of the most common complaints speaks to the notion of being "discriminating," in that the elitists cavil against the "fanboy" for continuing to buy comics-titles which he does not even enjoy.

Now, one logical response to the apparent perversity of the diehard fan is to say that the elitists may take his bitching about this or that grievance too seriously.   I deem it impossible to imagine that even the most diehard fan gets no pleasure out of collecting whatever he collects.  Even if he consciously loathes a given run of stories, he's at least getting a degree of validation from "being in the know," from being able to say, "Wow, Frank Miller's new project really bit big-time!" 

Another response is that because the elitist is stumping for the joys of being "discriminating," the elitist cannot possibly understand this desire to know the "Big Picture" with regard to a given feature or features.  Yet often the elitist has his own share of obsessions.  I can far better understand a devotion to MARVEL TEAM-UP, despite all of its faults, over a devotion to the dire, faux-literary works of Daniel Clowes.  But that's just my intersubjective response.

Now, even if there's some statistical truth in Morrison's statement, it should be noted that one reason female readers might be more discriminating is if the idiom is not one which their gender tends to favor.  In THE GENRE-GENDER WARS I noted:

... it isn't that women are incapable of going "yeah!" when they see some nasty bastard (or bitch) blown away by hero or heroine. But their reaction to such purgative scenarios is generally less immediate than a male's, and has to be justified more by appeals to character and situation than a man's does.
And the converse is true: I've certainly heard stories of female readers who devoured romance-paperbacks obsessively, which may have a great deal to do with these statistics from the Romance Writers of America site:

  • Romance fiction generated $1.438 billion in sales in 2012.
  • Romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012 (across the NYT, USA Today, and PW best-seller lists).
  • Romance fiction sales are estimated at $1.350 billion for 2013.
  • 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. (source: RWA Reader Survey)

  •  Call me crazy, but somehow I don't think that, where we're dealing with a genre that conforms to gender expectations, you're likely to see nearly as much "discrimination."

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